Expo 2025 Pavilion Delays Spur Japan to Take More Action

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Minister for the World Expo 2025 Naoki Okada, front center, is among the officials attending a 2025 Osaka-Kansai Expo promotional event alongside official character Myaku-Myaku in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, on Wednesday.

The 2025 Osaka-Kansai Expo is less than two years away, and fears are mounting that any further delays in the construction of pavilions of overseas participants could result in these facilities not being completed in time.

The central government is thus enhancing support for these pavilions, such as doubling the staff to handle inquiries from overseas and making a new form of insurance available to construction firms.

The expo is scheduled to run from April 13, 2025, through Oct. 13, 2025, on the artificial island of Yumeshima in Osaka.

Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura told senior ministry officials Wednesday that he was determined to iron out delays in the construction of pavilions that participating countries and regions will use.

“I want the ministry to use every means at its disposal to deal with this issue,” Nishimura said. “I want to strongly propel efforts to encourage the construction of overseas pavilions, which has become an urgent issue.”

The most severe delays affect the pavilions that overseas participants are building themselves. As of Wednesday, South Korea was the only nation that had filed with Osaka City the required application to begin construction.

Obtaining permission from the municipal government to start construction takes about 2½ months, and observers have pointed out that failure to break ground before the end of this year could result in a pavilion being unfinished by the time the expo gets underway.

Another reason for the delays was the COVID-19 pandemic, which had pushed back by one year the Dubai Expo originally scheduled from autumn 2020 to spring 2021. This shortened the preparation time for Expo 2025.

At Wednesday’s ministry meeting, Akihiro Tada, a vice minister at the trade ministry through July, was appointed as a coordinator tasked with liaising between domestic and international parties and supporting the Japan Association for the 2025 World Exposition. A special team established within the ministry to deal with inquiries from abroad is being increased from five members to 11.

The association is also proposing to the participating nations some building methods that could help shorten construction times.

Covering losses

Soaring material and labor costs are making it difficult for participating nations to find construction companies willing to build their pavilions within the projected budget. Compounding this, many domestic construction firms reportedly view the taking on of project orders from overseas as a risky proposition, citing reasons such as differences in business practices.

Consequently, the central government introduced Wednesday an expo trade insurance program. Construction companies that enter contracts to build pavilions for overseas participants will be reimbursed in full or nearly in full for any losses incurred should the participant fail to pay.

Wholly state-owned Nippon Export and Investment Insurance (NEXI) will be the insurer. Construction firms will be eligible for discounted insurance premiums if they take on multiple projects.

Advance sales of expo tickets are scheduled by the end of this year, but the pavilion issue has caused some apprehension among central government officials.

“The situation has given people a negative first impression of the expo,” one official said.

The central government and expo association are scrambling to reverse this situation.

At an event held in Tokyo on Wednesday, the association announced that Hitachi, Ltd., KDDI Corp. and Kubota Corp. were among the 11 companies and business associations sponsoring the “Future Life Expo: Future City” project. These sponsors will be exhibiting cutting-edge digital and mobility technologies at the expo.

Minister for the World Expo 2025 Naoki Okada said he wanted preparations for the expo to be accelerated.

“We’ll do everything we can to make the expo a success,” Okada said at the Tokyo event.